It is more blessed to give than to receive, said Jesus and a team of psychologists.
The psychologists in New York were not setting out to confirm Jesus’ words, but the headline on Medical Xpress stated, almost with surprise, “Study finds it actually is better (and healthier) to give than to receive.” Two decades of prior research had not found that recipients of help got the same benefits as the givers. Now, a five-year study involving 846 individuals linked decreased mortality with the stress-releasing pleasure of giving.
“These findings go beyond past analyses to indicate that the health benefits of helping behavior derive specifically from stress-buffering processes,” Poulin says, “and provide important guidance for understanding why helping behavior specifically may promote health and, potentially, for how social processes in general may influence health.”
The words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” do not appear in the four gospels of the New Testament, but instead were quoted by Paul to the Ephesian elders in the book of Acts of the Apostles, chapter 20, verse 35. This indicates that many of Jesus’ teachings were remembered decades later by other eyewitnesses besides Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This should not be surprising, because many thousands heard Jesus teach. As John ended his gospel (21:25), “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
It’s nice when science finally catches up to the Master Planner’s truths two millennia later, but once again, the thinking of scientists (if that’s what you can call psychologists) is orthogonal to the intent of Jesus’ words. Jesus was not saying, “Behave this way for your own health and happiness.” He was encouraging the disciples to forget themselves and focus on others. Not every selfless deed results in personal reward; look at soldiers who fell on grenades to protect their comrades. When health and happiness do accrue from acts of helping others, fine; but anyone who engages in helping others for his own health misses the point. Psychology can only look at the “what,” not the “why,” the “is” not the “ought.”
Wouldn’t it be something if the Creator built our brains so that righteous behavior would usually result in health and happiness as a by-product? That would be like intelligent design. (It doesn’t work with impure motives, though—that’s part of the design, too.)